Friday, October 2, 2020

Adapting to the "Unknown"

2020 most certainly was not the year any optometrist or optometry student expected. When the global pandemic first rampaged the country, we were in the height of our midterms and had an exam planned for the day school was to close. Since then, a lot of the pandemic was just “unknown.”

When the stay-at-home orders started, and all school and public buildings were closed, I had to make the adjustment to become an at-home student. As someone who loves to study at the library, in order to keep focusing on school and relaxing at home separate, this was a very difficult transition. However, it was a necessary one in order to do well during my spring and summer semesters. This adjustment, along with watching the news on the pandemic across the globe, studying for midterms, not knowing when we would return, or what the course of my curriculum would be like, caused my focus and motivation to decrease and my anxiety to increase.

As I was getting accustomed to studying from home, the professors were also going through their adjustment of moving everything online, and we as students just had to stay patient. In order to help ease the transition to virtual learning, several professors pre-recorded lectures in addition to holding collaborative sessions and online office hours, making sure that they were available to answer questions and help us through difficult material. One of my favorite aspects of the virtual environment was being able to attend an open forum with Dean Trego and faculty every week, where we discussed current events, their impact on our current learning environment, and how to move forward with our curriculum. I greatly appreciated having the chance for my voice to be heard and having such close communication with our administration during an unprecedented time.

Another aspect of virtual learning that required a major adjustment was taking exams online. Taking exams from home created an entirely new level of test anxiety, as being told things like you cannot put your hands on your face or if you look away from the camera you may be flagged was fairly daunting. When I first began taking the exams virtually, I would feel so incredibly nervous beforehand and then feel shaken down after every exam at the prospect that I would be flagged for something and be penalized. Additionally, as I was quarantining at home with my parents and grandparents, I had to adjust to there being other activities happening and background noise around me. Sometimes, they would forget I had an exam, which made me nervous that the Respondus Lockdown Browsers would pick up their conversations and flag me for that as well. This meant that exam time had to become quiet time for the entire household, which made me feel as though I was taking away from my family members’ freedom. However, as time went on and I took more exams, I became increasingly comfortable in the environment and my family worked with my schedule to help me in the best way they could to excel in my exams. 
What got me through these semesters was my support system. It was the professors who were willing to take a chance with virtual learning to help us understand the material. It was the Center for Professional and Personal Development who was able to schedule a virtual session with me and help me process the changes I was experiencing. It was being able to Zoom call and stay in touch with my friends and study groups. It was the virtual study sessions where my friends and I were able to work through PowerPoints and even create our own Kahoots to practice and study the material. It was my family who adjusted their schedules to accommodate my exams. It was everyone who helped me learn that while adjusting to new environments takes time, I can still be successful anywhere. 

Throughout this global pandemic, I had to do a lot of self-evaluating, make a lot of minor and major adjustments to my lifestyle, and take things one step at a time. However, through all of that, I grew as a student and as a person. I became stronger in the way I handled global news and the idea of the “unknown.” I learned that things will not always go as planned but you learn to adapt and make adjustments as you go. And, most importantly, I learned that you are not in this alone, and, at any point if you need help, you have a support system, even if it may be virtual. I am very grateful for the opportunities Salus University and PCO continue to give us students as we continue to learn and prosper in our careers.

- Ashka is an optometry student at Salus University

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Clinical Rotations During COVID

My name is Mauli Chothani and I am currently a second-year Occupational Therapy student. During our last semester, we have two clinical rotations, each 12 weeks long. My first clinical rotation was scheduled to be January 6 through March 27. We are given a one-week break, and my second clinical rotation was scheduled to be April 6 through July 26. 

When COVID-19 began in March, I had two more weeks left of my first clinical rotation in an outpatient pediatric setting. The facility had to quickly shut down and move to teletherapy. It was challenging treating kids virtually because there was a lot more parent involvement required, and kids usually don’t have the same equipment at home that is used in clinic.

My second clinical rotation is in an outpatient orthopedic setting, focusing on upper extremity injuries. Since COVID was at its peak around the time I was supposed to begin in April, the student clinical affiliation program was temporarily furloughed. Therefore, my graduation was also delayed. Fortunately, I was able to begin on July 13, I will be finishing up on October 2 and graduating that same month.

Although COVID-19 delayed my rotation schedule and delayed my graduation, I used the time off to my advantage. I picked up on new hobbies, caught up with family/friends via Zoom, and virtually taught children English. Having the break was much needed!

- Mauli is a second-year occupational therapy student at Salus University

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Monday, August 17, 2020

Insights on the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 has definitely been a year we can never forget. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon challenges we had never prepared for, becoming a time for us to function with strength, unity and caution. For me, this has been a difficult yet incredible learning opportunity! 

I graduated from my Bachelor of Science at the University of British Columbia in November 2019, and was excited to spend the next few months transitioning to optometry school. Little did I know, the world as we see it was about to change come March of this year. I had decided to take a trip to India this March, to visit family and reconnect with my cultural roots. My family and I left Vancouver, Canada just days before learning that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic. Just a week into our trip, what was supposed to be a relaxing time turned into a race to get early tickets back home before the Indian government enforced a complete nation-wide lockdown. We were one of the lucky ones to make it out the day before it started.

Arriving back in Vancouver after just 2 weeks, it seemed as though the world had completely changed. Streets were generally empty, household items were being sold out in all stores, and overall the world had become a fearful place. With the virus spreading and uncertainty for how schools, universities, and workplaces would function, many people around us including myself were starting to worry. Although I was not enrolled in any courses at that time, I began to wonder how long this pandemic would last, and what optometry school would look like for me. After some time, I started to notice some of the inspiring stories being shared in my community of people reaching out to those who were going through a tough time with the business closures and loss of jobs. People in my community, and in communities around the world were choosing to step up despite their own concerns and hardships. I realized that this pandemic would not be over until we tackle it by coming together and supporting one another. I decided to use this opportunity and organized a group of volunteers to start The Mask Project through my organization “Girls Empowered”, which I have been running for many years. We utilized our extra time indoors to make and donate cotton masks to women in need in shelters and resource centers around Vancouver. At a certain point during quarantine, I had felt as though I was serving no purpose, but channeling the time and resources I had to help others gave me a sense of strength. 

Another observation I have made during this pandemic is that despite all the technology and resources we may have in today’s time, proper leadership and the ability to listen as a population at large is critical in circumstances such as this pandemic. I have witnessed the direct effects of excellent leadership from the top doctor of BC, which helped us control the pandemic much better than any other province in Canada. I have also witnessed the negative effects from a lack of effective leadership which has led to an explosive rise of cases in other parts of the world. What has been the most shocking of all for me is to see the lack of unity we as people have, even when it comes to taking care of our own health. I have seen protests for wearing masks, hate crimes against certain races, and the refusal to accept protocols and public health measures. At a time like this, I feel that we need to be vigilant listeners and abide by the recommendations of health experts who are looking out for our health. We need to show compassion and kindness to those around us so that we can fight this challenge together. 

It is encouraging to see that despite some not cooperating, many choose to make the extra effort to social distance and protect one another. I am especially grateful to institutions such as Salus University, who are putting in so much effort to keep vital protocols in place so that we feel safe and stay healthy while adapting a hybrid model of study. As a new journey begins for my future classmates and I, I hope that we learn and grow as a strong, cohesive community to keep ourselves and those around us safe. I believe this pandemic has taught us the importance of listening, adapting and being patient while doing our part to keep our communities healthy. 

- Jaskirat is an optometry student at Salus University

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Transitioning into Optometry School During a Pandemic

There are so many unknowns when applying to graduate school. Where will I get in? Will I enjoy living in this city for four years? Who will be my future roommate? And now the additional unknown of how classes will change based on a worldwide pandemic. 

When we got the news of a hybrid first semester, I didn’t know how to feel. I graduated from the University of Miami, in 2019 so I didn’t experience the shift of online learning. In my gap year before optometry school, I worked as a public health teacher in a local high school. Through this role, however I felt the shift of online teaching, as I had to change the curriculum to accommodate an online setting. From a teacher’s perspective, I saw how important it was to have a continuation of learning, and how easily discouraged students could get being at home. I found that Salus University's approach was ideal, and truly has the student’s best interest at heart. By holding our lectures online, and maintaining small groups for lab, I am assured that I will be safe, educated, and friends with my classmates. 

Being from Miami, Florida the now epicenter of COVID-19, I saw the effects of this virus firsthand. I witnessed what irresponsible actions will result to - and how quickly hospitals can reach capacity. I am fortunate that Salus University understands the impact of this virus, and is taking all the steps to keep us healthy. 

So what are my intentions for a hybrid semester?
  • Setting a schedule and sticking to it!
  • Practicing the life skills, I’ve learned in quarantine, such as preparing my homemade coffee and cauliflower gnocchi.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude, remaining grateful for continuation of learning, mindful of the state of our world, and thankful for this beautiful community.

- Sonali Khiyani is an optometry student at Salus University

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jenkintown Named One of the Best Philly Suburbs for Young Professionals

Salus University’s Elkins Park campus sits on the edge of Jenkintown and is where many Salus students live during their time as students.  

So, how did Jenkintown, earn the 11th spot out of over 300 other cities in the Greater Philadelphia area? Jenkintown offers a variety of housing options, a low crime rate and a diverse community. Not only is it a train-ride away from the numerous restaurants in Center City, but it also has many local attractions to keep people of all ages occupied – including students.

Salus students have corralled just a few of the popular places in the area that keep them loving Jenkintown:
Places and Activities
  • Wissahickon Valley Park – take advantage of nice weather by going hiking on this nearby trail
  • Tacony Creek Park – come here for beautiful creek views and native flora
  • Willow Grove Mall – browse over 120 stores and restaurants
  • Abington Art Center – take art classes, view the galleries, and enjoy free music concerts in the summer
  • Hiway Theater – screen new releases and classics – and Bradley Cooper was known to frequent the Hiway during his childhood in Jenkintown 
  • Tour Beth Sholom Synagogue – the only synagogue designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 
  • Piazza on the Square – It’s Jenkintown’s downtown shopping and dining destination
  • The Goldbergs Tour – Take the tour of Jenkintown and its surrounding communities based off of the childhood of  ABC’s The Goldbergs creator Adam Goldberg

- Maya is an optometry student at Salus University

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Graduate School Transition

Starting Salus University directly after completing my undergraduate degree, I knew that being a professional graduate student would be different. Throughout my time exploring graduate schools as well as from my visit and interview here at Salus University, I knew that graduate school was going to be more “hands-on” and more “applied” than undergrad. As reiterated during Orientation week, the goal of graduate school to become a professional. Prior to starting my coursework, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what we would do in class and what the assignments would look like to help me meet that goal. 

Now that the semester is well underway, I realize that graduate school is not just about sitting in lecture and memorizing and understanding lots of material, as was the case in most of my undergraduate classes. To be an effective practitioner, across all programs offered at Salus, other skills must be learned, too. It is in this sense that graduate school teaches you how to be a professional. In other words, graduate school is job training, where we build upon, apply to, and use the knowledge we have obtained in a practical way. The classroom work is preparation for, and an essential companion to, the clinical fieldwork that will we be completing in later semesters. 

Coming from a fairly large state university focused on the health sciences and talking to friends there already in their respective health graduate programs, I expected certain logistical differences between undergrad and grad school once I began my career at Salus. Of course, all programs and all schools vary, but from my conversations, I expected that my classes would be structured such that all students in my program year would be with me in each class; that all of my classes would be held in the same building; that the classes would meet less frequently throughout the week; and that I would complete many projects and presentations, including group projects. No longer would I take classes from a wide variety of disciplines, scampering from one end of campus to the other to make it to the next building in time for the next 50-minute class, where there I would often only know a fraction of my classmates. This different school structure I was told about has been true and has provided very beneficial learning experiences. 

As a first-year Occupational Therapy (OT) student, my class consists of 50 students. We are in class with each other for all of our courses, except we split up into smaller groups for labs. Through this set up, we really do have the opportunity to get to know each other. Additionally, the claim about group work has rang true as well. Often times, in class, we have discussions in small groups and also have class-wide discussions. This interactive format helps us to learn by collaborating with each other and sharing different perspectives, which are important aspects to our future careers in healthcare. During our lab time, we complete hands-on activities. We also have many group projects assigned outside of class that make up a large part of our grade. Working in teams, communicating, and respectfully sharing ideas are all necessary professional skills we must develop and the classroom set-up as well as the assessments foster these attributes.

Another note about class scheduling- for the Occupational Therapy program, we only have about two classes per day, and we only have each class once a week. This means that when we are in each class, the class is several hours long. At first, when I heard that this is how many graduate programs are set up, I wasn’t sure how I would like sitting in the same room concentrating on one subject for such a long time, especially if the class was strictly a lecture, as I didn’t prefer this type of class schedule in my secondary school years. However, despite having long classes, from the start of my first week at Salus, I have gotten so much out of these classes for several reasons. First, because the classes are interactive, whether through discussions, group work assignments, or through the professor asking questions throughout the lecture, being in one class for one block of time has kept my attention and stimulated my thinking. Additionally, having a larger block of time allows for completion of more hands-on activities which allows us
to hone in on skills that will be needed as a professional occupational therapist. During our time in the College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER) Lab, we work in pairs at different stations completing different tasks in order to assess the skills needed to perform such tasks – such as putting beads on a string to assess a preschool educational benchmark relating to patterning. We’re usually given short five to ten minute breaks periodically to break up the time and allow us to get up and stretch our legs, so the class feels like it is divided into smaller time frames. Lastly, our classes are scheduled back-to-back, with a lunch hour in between, which makes for an efficient day. The classes are engaging, and I’m surprised by how quickly the time has passed when we reach the end of each class.

The logistics of graduate school have met my expectations and I have seen the benefits of why graduate school is set up this way. Having longer class times with our entire class enhances our learning, and takes us one step further in becoming a professional. 

- Kaylin is a first-year occupational therapy student at Salus University

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Orientation Week 2018

No matter the age, or how professional the schooling, the first day at a new University will always be scary. Stepping into Orientation week at Salus University, I didn’t know what exactly to expect. I was nervous to start professional school far from home where I knew very few people. Of course, I was also extremely excited to finally be here after working so hard for the opportunity to pursue a career in my dream profession, but I was still anxious. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one, as I could tell early on during Orientation week that many of these students and future health professionals were feeling equally as restless.

The first day was full of congratulations from faculty, welcomes from staff, and introductory ice breakers shared between students. Between the excess of important information and words of wisdom thrown our way, we left feeling possibly more overwhelmed than before we arrived.

However, with each passing day of the week, the academic building became more navigable, the faces on campus became a little more familiar, and the University felt more recognizable. The optional evening activities also helped to lift some of the stress of the week, with Trivia Night and a trip to Dave and Buster’s allowing friendships among peers to form.

Over the course of the week, we learned what it means to be a part of Salus University and also what it means to be invested in a greater health profession society. Being enrolled in professional school and pursuing a career in an admirable field inspires each student to hold themselves to a higher standard. Our week concluded with the ultimate symbolic representation of what it means to be a part of this professional community: the White Coat Ceremony.

On Friday afternoon, when more than 300 new Salus students stood together at the Kimmel Center proudly wearing our white coats, I couldn’t help but appreciate the magnitude of this moment. We are all from different geological locations. We are all at different stages of our lives, some of us married, with kids, engaged, or newly graduated. We are all from different backgrounds, have different stories, and have different paths that lead us to where we are now – but we are all here and all dedicated to the same mission: a passion for healthcare, a commitment to professionalism and a desire to help others. While it may just be a piece of clothing, the white coat symbolizes all of this and more, and the ceremony was a beautiful way to end our Orientation week while representing the start of our professional journey.

As classes pick up this week and the possible stress of the program heightens, I hope to remind myself of this important moment whenever times get rough. It will certainly be a challenging four years but I know this commitment to healthcare and helping others is what will make it all worth it in the end. 

-Olivia is a first year optometry student at Salus University